Roman Verostko

Obituary of Roman Verostko


On June 1, 2024, digital art pioneer, educator and humanist Roman Verostko died at his home in Minneapolis. Professor emeritus at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and co-founder of the Algorist Group, Verostko is remembered as a key protagonist in the use of early computers to create works of art. A Minnesota resident since 1968, Verostko was an active leader within the Twin Cities arts community.

In accordance with Verostko’s wishes, a private interment will occur alongside the remains of the artist’s late spouse, Alice Wagstaff Verostko (1919 – 2009). Family, friends, colleagues, and students are invited to a memorial service on Sunday, Aug. 11 from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Avenue Minneapolis, Minnesota. An additional service at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania will occur on Friday, Sept. 13 from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Verostko Center for the Arts.

Verostko, 94, is preceded in death by his parents, John and Mary Verostko, and his siblings, Theresa Leshko, John, George, Bernard, William, Charles, and Andrew Verostko.

Joseph Verostko was born in the coal mining town of Tarrs, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 12, 1929. Demonstrating an early interest in art, Verostko was schooled as an illustrator at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh before pursuing monastic life at Saint Vincent Archabbey, entering the monastery on his 21st birthday in 1950 and accepting the name of Roman. Verostko would earn degrees from Saint Vincent College and Seminary before his ordination to the priesthood in 1959. A year later, he was sent to New York to pursue advanced study in art history and studio practice at New York University and Columbia University before earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute in 1961. Later, he was appointed as the editor of The New Catholic Encyclopedia’s sections on Art and Architecture (McGraw Hill, 1967). Verostko was responsible for articulating visual styles and ideas from cultures ancient through modern to an American Catholic readership.

Verostko left monastic life and married Alice Wagstaff, a child psychologist and university professor, on Aug. 11, 1968. The two relocated to Minneapolis, where Verostko assumed a post on the humanities faculty at Minneapolis School of Art (now Minneapolis College of Art and Design). While at MCAD, Verostko served in several capacities including academic dean (1975 – 1978), chairperson of Liberal Arts (1988 – 1991), and eventually professor emeritus in 1994.

In 1970, following an introduction to programming language at the Control Data Institute in Minneapolis and a summer at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies in Boston, Verostko encountered the expanding leverage of algorithms executed with computers. Within a decade, he converted his studio into an “electronic scriptorium” with computers and drawing machines known as “pen plotters.” For Verostko, the computer served as a pathway to new frontiers of form. He would later master the experimental process of writing computer code for creative purposes – a method of making that occupied his studio practice for decades.

Verostko’s travels to China, first in 1982 and again in a teaching capacity in 1985 and 1998, had a remarkable influence on his development as an artist. Through a lecture tour hosted by universities throughout the country, he introduced 20th century Western art to groups of young Chinese artists eager to expand their understanding of different aesthetic traditions.

Perennially interested in semiotics, philosophy, and cross-cultural exchange, Verostko’s work exists at the nexus of creativity and technological innovation.

Over the course of his career, Verostko’s work has appeared in over a hundred exhibitions nationally and internationally; most recently in the exhibitions Chance and Control: Art in the Age of Computers at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and Coder le monde at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He authored 22 published articles on subjects ranging from a 1964 paper on abstract liturgical art to his 1988 paper, “Epigenetic Painting: Software As Genotype,” delivered in Utrecht at the First International Symposium on Electronic Art identifying the biological analogues to generative art. His work is represented in numerous public and private collections, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art; Tokyo’s Tama Art University Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; and the ZKM: Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. He received significant recognition from organizations that have supported the development of digital art, including a 1993 Honorary Mention for the Prix Ars Electronica; a 1994 Golden Plotter first prize (Gladbeck, Germany); a Recommendatory Prize from ARTEC’95 in Nagoya, Japan; a 2009 SIGGRAPH Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement; and induction into the inaugural class of the SIGGRAPH Academy in 2018.

On Nov. 17, 2021, Saint Vincent College formally dedicated the Verostko Center for the Arts. Located inside the Dale P. Latimer Library, the state-of-the-art facility features 5,000 square feet of exhibition space, a video presentation room, administrative offices, and climate-controlled storage for Saint Vincent’s collection of art, rare books, and the College’s archive. As part of the Center’s dedication festivities, Saint Vincent conferred upon Verostko an honorary doctorate of humane letters for his indelible impact within the field of generative art. Dedicated to featuring artwork that investigates intersecting academic disciplines, the Center stands as an enduring testament to Verostko’s lifelong work of revealing the existent power when fields of inquiry converge. Additionally, the Verostko Center is home to the artist’s personal archive – an extensive repository of materials available for scholarship and curatorial projects.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Roman and Alice Wagstaff Verostko Scholarship at MCAD or the Alice Wagstaff and Roman Verostko Legacy Fund at Saint Vincent College in support of interdisciplinary arts programs on campus.

A Memorial Tree was planted for Roman
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